Commentary: How to ride a bike


  A girl wobbled down the street on her bike, legs hesitantly pedaling up and down. On one down, she paused too long, and began to lean dangerously to the right. But the man watching her caught her and held her bike by its handles as she gingerly climbed on, asking are you okay?

  I watched the scene. I had been tasked to teach my sister how to ride a bike, but when it came right down to it, I had forgotten how.

  Gradually, my little sister began to pedal more evenly, the bike started picking up speed, and she was let go and whizzed down the street, her hair fluttering behind her. I gasped, and my hand flew up to my mouth.

  “You’ll want to take her down to Feist for more practice,” my neighbor said, turning to me and grinning. “I remember how Bella and Evan used to struggle so much with the incline on this hill.”

  I remember how my dad used to pack all of our bikes into his van and drive us down to Feist park, my sister and I singing and laughing all the while.

  Once we got there, our dad took out our bikes and my sister and I practiced going around the parking lot, Janice cycling around on her hot pink tricycle, me on my slightly lighter shade of pink bike.

  My dad always offered to take off the training wheels but I was deathly afraid of falling — I always declined.

  When I saw my sister hesitantly wobble on her bike, I remembered these moments, and felt … empty.

  So many times throughout high school, especially my college application process, I wondered what it would be like to hear my dad, who had gone through that same process, who had faced the same struggles, obnoxiously snore from across the house again, instead of dead silence.

  I wonder what it would be like to not hear my mom sobbing through the thin walls, and having no way of comforting her, because I am no replacement for my father, yet somehow I must be.

  Because I am the only person who is assumed to know how to ride a bike, the only person who can help my sister with her homework, the only person somewhat familiar with the American education system and its requirements.

  And if it is for stability in my family, my fear of letting my mother and sister down makes me determined to chase success, to chase a brighter future for their sakes.

  This drive led to all nighters, dark circles stained under my eyes as I struggle to memorize the functions of the heart yet another time.

  But sometimes in my main role as navigator of this foreign world of America for my mother and sister, I fail.

  Sometimes, I can’t even ride a bike. Sometimes I couldn’t be my dad.

  But after our neighbor taught my little sister the basic ropes, I called in a favor with a friend. For an hour, she coached Janice on her technique, giving her advice on riding the cheap Walmart bike.

  To make sure she retained the lesson, I took her to the park for extra practice, where she wheeled around for what seemed forever, gradually getting more comfortable with the two wheels.

  And when the sky began to turn a violent orange, my sister got off the bike and asked if I wanted to get on, too.

  It was difficult, but somehow, my legs started getting into a rhythm and somehow I … I was riding a bike.

  No training wheels.

  I flew through the parking lot, my sister yelping and running after me, shouting at me to slow down.

  But I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. My legs pumped faster and faster and even though it was so cold the air bit my skin as I flew through it, I didn’t care.

  I was flying.
  I was flying.
  I was free.